Friday, December 17, 2004


A question in a different thread made me think of this, so I figured I'd just post it here for all to read.


by D.A. Clarke

privilege is simple:
going for a pleasant stroll after dark,
not checking the back of your car as you get in, sleeping soundly,
speaking without interruption, and not remembering
dreams of rape, that follow you all day, that woke you crying, and
is not seeing your stripped, humiliated body
plastered in celebration across every magazine rack, privilege
is going to the movies and not seeing yourself
terrorized, defamed, battered, butchered
seeing something else

privilege is
riding your bicycle across town without being screamed at or
run off the road, not needing an abortion, taking off your shirt
on a hot day, in a crowd, not wishing you could type better
just in case, not shaving your legs, having a decent job and
expecting to keep it, not feeling the boss's hand up your crotch,
dozing off on late-night busses, privilege
is being the hero in the TV show not the dumb broad,
living where your genitals are totemized not denied,
knowing your doctor won't rape you

privilege is being
smiled at all day by nice helpful women, it is
the way you pass judgment on their appearance with magisterial authority,
the way you face a judge of your own sex in court and
are over-represented in Congress and are not strip searched for a traffic ticket
or used as a dart board by your friendly mechanic, privilege
is seeing your bearded face reflected through the history texts
not only of your high school days but all your life, not being
relegated to a paragraph
every other chapter, the way you occupy
entire volumes of poetry and more than your share of the couch unchallenged,
it is your mouthing smug, atrocious insults at women
who blink and change the subject -- politely -- privilege
is how seldom the rapist's name appears in the papers
and the way you smirk over your PLAYBOY

it's simple really, privilege
means someone else's pain, your wealth
is my terror, your uniform
is a woman raped to death here, or in Cambodia or wherever
wherever your obscene privilege
writes your name in my blood, it's that simple,
you've always had it, that's why it doesn't
seem to make you sick to your stomach,
you have it, we pay for it, now
do you understand

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Choices or Otherwise...Why Does It Matter?

Ironically, I've already written about my thoughts on the "choice" of being gay -- back in the spring of 2003 (you'll have to scroll down to the post titled, "Random Thoughts").

Perhaps one of the more pertinent quotes from that long-ago post (IMHO) is from feminist humorist (aka fumorist) extraordinaire, Kate Clinton:

"So what if a gene or a gland causes gayness? Would that make the coming-out-to-parents conversation a health report? 'Mom, Dad, I've got the gay gene.' Would protest signs that say 'we're here, we're queer, get used to it' become apologies - 'we've got the gay gene, we couldn't be more sorry' or 'I wish my hypothalamus were bigger'?"

Is being gay a choice? I guess that's going to depend on individuals and exactly what is meant by "choice." But in the end -- why should it matter? Should the woman who makes a concious decision to become a "political lesbian" be deemed more worthy of discrimination than the girl who "knew she was a lesbian" at the age of 5? Should the bi-sexual who "chooses" to fall in love with another woman be less worthy of protection from discrimination than the bi-sexual who "chooses" to fall in love with a man?

In the end, we may never know if there is some sort of "gay gene" -- and even if there is, there will still be people who may "choose" to live a "straight" lifestyle even with the "gay gene," and those who may "choose" to live a "gay" lifestyle even without the "gay gene." It really doesn't matter.

The same goes for fat people. There are, without a doubt, some people who are fat because of a genetic predisposition to being fat. There are some who are fat because they eat too much. There are some who are fat because they've "dieted" their way up to their current weight (oh yes, they do exist). There are extremely unhealthy fat people and there are extremely healthy fat people -- and you cannot tell just by looking at the person which one s/he is.

As Elkins said earlier:
There's nothing wrong with encouraging people to take better care of their health, but I don't think that's really what anti-fat discrimination is all about. It is an appearance-based prejudice, and it has far more to do with fat itself than it does with "health."

The fact is, when you look at a fat person, you have no way of knowing if that person is healthy or not. Similarly, you have no way of knowing whether a random thin person is healthy or not.

When you see a fat person in McDonalds, you have no way of knowing whether that is the first time s/he has eaten at McDonalds in a year, or whether s/he eats there every day. Same with the thin person who is next in line.

When you see a fat person walking down the street, you have no idea how much they eat or how much they excercise. For all you know, they may have just lost over half their body weight over the course of the previous several years. Maybe they do weigh 250 lbs., but maybe 3 years ago they weighed 500 lbs.

When you see a person -- fat or thin -- you have no idea what their blood pressure or cholesterol level is.

If it's really about a concern over "health" -- shouldn't the emphasis be on whether that person is eating a healthy diet and getting enough excercise; whether their blood pressure is through the roof or at a healthy range? There is absolutely NO WAY to know this by looking at the person.

Shouldn't you be more concerned about the 145 lb. athlete who eats nothing but saturated fat and simple carbs and has a cholesterol level of 300 than the 300 lb. person who eats balanced meals, excercises regularly, has a cholesterol level of 100 and a blood pressure of 100 over 80?

Of course, in the end, you can advocate a healthy lifestyle as much as you want -- but it still doesn't matter. It's not your health or your life.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Quote of the Day

I may be the only person in the world who has ever traded the writings of Dworkin for pornography.

Thanks, flea. I nearly ruined the keyboard with the coffee I spit all over it. And it's not even my keyboard, it belongs to my workplace. That's ok -- it was worth it.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Europe's reaction to the election

It's not just the liberals in America who are feeling depressed, angry, disappointed and/or disgusted this week. Apparently, these are common feelings around the world.

Bush Makes Not-So-Good Headlines in Europe

Thursday November 4, 2004 7:01 PM

LONDON (AP) - The re-election of President Bush dominated British newspapers Thursday, and many cast impartiality aside in reporting the result.

"How can 59,054,087 people be so DUMB?'' the liberal Daily Mirror asked in a Page One headline. Inside, several pages of coverage were headed "U.S. election disaster.''

The Independent bore the front-page headline "Four more years'' on a black page with grim pictures including a hooded Iraqi prisoner and an orange-clad detainee at Guantanamo Bay.

The left-leaning Guardian led its features section with a black page bearing the tiny words, "Oh, God.'' Inside a story described how Bush's victory "catapaulted liberal Britain into collective depression.''

Across Europe, many newspapers expressed dismay at the prospect of another term for Bush, a president often regarded as inflexible and unilateralist.

"Oops - they did it again,'' Germany's left-leaning Tageszeitung newspaper said in a front-page English headline. The cover of the Swiss newsmagazine Facts called Bush's re-election "Europe's Nightmare.'' "Victory for the hothead: how far will he go?'' asked another Swiss weekly, L'Hebdo.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Feminist Bookstores

Amp's post that included his wish list reminded me of an important issue -- Feminist Bookstores.

Feminist bookstores (along with other independent bookstores) are closing at an astronomical rate. At the moment, there are just over 50 feminist bookstores left in the entire country, and more are closing every year. Large corporate chain stores and web-based stores are growing larger, and local independent booksellers are being forced to close their doors.

Feminist bookstores have long been an important part of the feminist community. Most of these stores offer far more than "just" books. They also serve as resource centers and gathering places for community groups. They often host a number of events -- from book readings to support groups to local activist meetings and a myriad of other types of events. My local feminist bookstore, for example, just hosted a class on "how to draw comics" led by local comic artist, Nik Arnold (you can also buy some of her artwork at the store). If the bookstore were to close, we would lose a lot more than a place to buy books, we would be losing one of the cornerstones of the feminist community.

The three main arguments I usually hear about using on-line or large chain stores rather than feminist bookstores are convenience, selection, and price.

Convenience: many feminist bookstores also have web shopping and shipping available. It really isn't any more difficult than buying your book at amazon or Of course, one of the nice things about and is the ability to design a wish list -- but you can always use one of these sites as a wish list, but enourage people to buy the book at a feminist bookstore.

Selection: most of these bookstores feature feminist books, for obvious reasons. But that doesn't mean that they can't order just about any other book you want. If you don't see what you want in the store, just ask for them to order it.

Price: as a smaller store, it's true that these places can't offer as many discounts. They aren't buying in bulk the way larger stores are. One thing you can do is see if there are any volunteer opportunities -- by volunteering a mere 6 hours a month at my local feminist bookstore, I get a 20% discount on every purchase. In addition, most of these bookstores also sell used books. And, in the end, one should think about where their money is going. I realize that there are some people out there who really, really cannot afford to buy anything but used books, and the selection of used books may be greater at or But for those who can afford it, isn't it worth it to spend a little bit more on preserving an important part of your community?

The Feminist Bookstore Network has an up-to-date list of feminist bookstores around the country (and Canada). When websites are available, those URL's are also given. Check to see if there is a feminist bookstore in your neck of the woods -- and if there is, consider supporting it. If not, consider supporting one in another area that has web shopping available.

Friday, October 22, 2004

It's beginning to look a lot like donation time

In the next month or so, many people are going to begin giving and making donations to various charities, food banks, and shelters. As someone who works in a shelter, and therefore gets the donations to the people they are intended for, I'd like to make a few suggestions when you're deciding what to give.

Now, let me start by stating that donations are always needed and always appreciated. If the only thing you can afford to give happens to be listed in this post, by all means, give it anyway (with a few exceptions).

I should also state that every place you may be thinking of giving a donation to probably has different needs, so it's always best to check with them to see if they need that particular donation. Most places even have their "wish lists"(or something comparable) on their websites. Keep in mind that most of these places may have limited storage space, so having "too much of a good thing" is simply not always possible. If one place doesn't need your donation, another place might need it.

With that said, here are some (very general) guidelines you may want to think about when deciding what to donate. [NOTE: If you are donating to a food bank, these guidelines won't necessarily be the same, I'm talking more about donating to shelters or other such programs.]


  • The vast majority of donations we get come in during the holiday season. While there are a few (very much appreciated) people who will give donations throughout the rest of the year, most of the donations we live on throughout the year are given to us during November and December. So milk, eggs, cheese, fruit, and meat are always appreciated -- but we also need things that are still going to be good next October.

  • If the expiration date has already passed, please don't donate it. I know Kraft Mac & Cheese never really goes bad. And I know the people who use the donations are often in a desperate situation. But no one really wants to eat Mac & Cheese that was supposed to be used by May 2001.

  • Mac & Cheese and Top Ramen can be good food -- they last a long time and they're cheap. But people like variety. Try to be a little different when thinking of donations. When everyone gives the same thing year after year, it leaves people with very little choice and very little variation in their meals. Their lives are already in crisis, we shouldn't force them to eat such a limited menu on top of everything else. And, btw, milk and butter may be hard to come by in these situations, so boxed Mac & Cheese will only get someone so far.

  • Sugar is good -- it can be used on cereal or in coffee or what have you. Flour, not so good. Let's face it, these people are in crisis, most of them are not going to be baking. Besides -- in order to bake, they'll also need milk and eggs, and the proportion of flour to eggs and milk is incredibly skewed.

  • Speaking of coffee -- coffee and tea are always good. Those are probably the most used donations we get. Also considering adding some non-dairy creamer to that list.

  • Canned goods are a good donation. But again -- variety!! Most people don't want to eat canned beets every night.

  • Baby formula is always good. But, maybe mix it up with different types of formula (I don't know why, but we seem to get an exorbinant amout of soy formula). Also, other kinds of baby food would be nice once in a while.


  • Used clothing is always good. It doesn't have to be trendy or expensive. But please, stained clothing and clothing with holes is really not needed. Women in crisis are not going to want to sit down with a needle and thread and mend clothes; nor are they going to want to walk around with stained clothing. And please, always wash the clothes before you donate them.

  • Socks and underwear: always needed, rarely given. Now, used socks are okay (so long as they don't have holes in them). Used underwear -- think about it -- would you want to wear underwear that has been previously worn? EWWW! Also, if you are donating to a women's shelter, think about donating women's and children's underwear; we really don't need men's underwear.


  • Stuffed animals can be okay, but please, they should be new. We really can't use someone's childhood boo-boo bear.

  • Games are even better. Or play-dough. Or paint sets. Things that older children can actually use.

Most importantly, think about donating at other times of the year. We greatly appreciate the huge number of donations we get during the holidays. But by summer, it's slim-pickins.

UPDATE: Now that I'm here at work, there are a few other things I thought of, and figured I'd go ahead and them here, since I'm sure that most shelters around the country are also in need of similar types of products.

Things that we are always in desperate need of, but never (or rarely) seem to get them as donations:

  • African-American hair care products (shampoo & conditioner made for A-A hair, straightening or curling products, etc.)

  • Toiletries, such as tampons and pads, deoderant, toothpaste, toothbrushes

  • Gift cards for grocery stores, Target/K-Mart/Wal-Mart, etc.

  • Movie passes

  • Passes for the zoo

  • Bus tickets

  • Cell phones (even without a service plan, they can be used to call 911)

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Quote of the Day

This morning, while going through an unbelievable number of canned goods, I was listening to KBOO which featured a talk with my idol, Arundhati Roy. The entire thing was worth listening to -- and made even the most mundane task (like sorting canned goods) bearable. But there was one quote that really stood out (this is paraphrased from memory, but it's pretty close to verbatim):

Deciding whether to vote for Kerry or Bush is sort of like choosing a laundry detergent. Whether you choose Tide or Ivory Snow, they're both owned by Procter & Gamble.

Friday, October 15, 2004

More fun with Yes on 36

Now on to the "serious" arguments in favor of Measure 36.

Sure, there's the just plain funny arguments, such as this one from House Majority Leader Wayne Scott:
The ACLU Will Demand More

If measure 36 fails, there will be mass confusion over the definition of marriage in Oregon. The ACLU will surely force costly litigation on the state and school districts demanding that same sex marriage become a normal component of school curriculums. Teachers will be forced to teach sex education to middle school children based on the new interpretation of marriage in Oregon.
But the best part is how the same Wayne Scott sums up his argument (emphasis added):
It is important to affirm what we all thought was already in the Oregon Constitution—marriage is a sacred covenant between one man and one man
Typo? Or Freudian slip?

What would you do with an extra $2000?

I can think of a lot of things I would do with that kind of money, but satire would not be one of the first things I'd think of. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your views), M. Dennis Moore did think of it.

Moore wrote 4 arguments "in favor" of Measure 36 for the voters' pamphlet, at $500 a pop. In fact, his entries are the first 3 and the second to last entries in the voters' pamphlet.

Here are a few samples (all emphasis in original):


The Bible says that marriage is for procreation. God made Adam and Eve, and Adam and Eve made Cain and Abel, not an empty nest.

Marriage is for procreation. If you're not pro-Creation, you're anti-God. And once a marriage has been solemnized, sex is serious business. The solemnity of sex must not be abused for sinful pleasures. Sex is for procreation, not recreation. And marriage is for breeding purposes.

Therefore, it should be Oregon public policy that

  • Homosexuals may not marry.
  • Infertile persons may not marry.
  • Men with vasectomies may not marry.
  • Women with hysterectomies may not marry.
  • Post-menopausal women may not marry.
  • Persons planning to use birth control may not marry.
  • Non-virgins may not marry (Deuteronomy 22:13-21).
  • Inter-racial couples may not marry (Deuteronomy 7:3).

And couples who fail to conceive within two years ought to have their marriage licenses revoked.

Additionally, the Bible says that

  • Divorced persons may not marry (Luke 16:18).
  • And if a man dies without leaving a male heir, it is his brother's responsibility to impregnate the widow (Genesis 38:6-10). If he refuses, he shall be fined one shoe (Deuteronomy 25:5-10).

    This is the sacred word of the Lord, steadfast and unchanging.

    Traditional morality must become Oregon public policy. All of it. And the older the tradition, the better. The separation of church and state be damned. In order to protect the sanctity of marriage and the sacred institution of heterosexual procreation, unequal treatment and discrimination must be legislated consistently against all persons who cannot or will not breed as God intended. It is God's will that we multiply and fill the Earth and finally subdue it when the population explosion self-implodes. Praise God!

    Love is not good enough a reason to marry, because marriage is only for


(This information furnished by M. Dennis Moore, Defense of Heterosexual Breeding Coalition.)

This one is my favorite:


Frightening new unprecedented social changes are threatening old traditional values. And these attacks on tradition have been escalating--for millennia!

First there was Original Sin when Eve disobeyed God! Then the Flood! Then Abraham abandoned the traditional practice of human sacrifice! Then Jews instituted the modern covenant of circumcision! Then Moses brought down from Mount Sinai a bunch of new-fangled Laws on stone tablets! And later Jesus abolished them and preached instead the radical new Golden Rule!

Polygamy fell out of favor! Women were no longer mere pieces of property belonging to men! Next these uppity women demanded the right to vote! Families could no longer own slaves! Prohibition saved the family from destruction by Demon Rum! The nineteenth-century extended families on American farms were destroyed by the 1950s social engineering of the "Leave It to Beaver" suburban cookie-cutter nuclear families! Blacks refused to ride in the back of the bus! Women demanded equal pay for equal work! Single parents demanded respect! Gays and lesbians demanded an end to hatred and oppression! Flower children protested traditional mass-murder warfare and genocide! Divorce skyrocketed! The silence surrounding child abuse was broken!

Frightening social changes continued! And then the religious right began a righteous backlash! First they accused gays and lesbians of being promiscuous! And when this failed, they began accusing them of having long-term committed monogamous relationships and wanting to get married!

Where will it all end? After 6,000-some years of frightening attacks on old traditional values, will history never cease to unfold? Will God never stop throwing all of these radical social changes at us?

My friends, there is a simple answer. All you have to do is


It's really that simple!

Now, which one of these radical social changes will this measure turn the clock back to? Oh, come on, let's just


(This information furnished by M. Dennis Moore, The Beaver State Defense of Beaver Coalition.)

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Abuse is sooo funny

Last night I was watching the last bit of Last Comic Standing. Or rather, it was on in the background, but there was one bit that really got my attention.

Now, I've never actually seen the whole show, but I think I got the gist of it -- stand-up comics do their routines, the show picks clips of their "best" parts as a "reminder" at the end, and people can call in to vote.

Now, I would assume that the producers pick out what they deem as the best/funniest part of the comics' routines as the "reminder" of who these people are. Which is partly why I found this one particular clip so appalling.

I don't know the guy's name, but he was talking about some kid (a boy) who was crying and saying he just wished his dad would stop hitting his mom. The "comedian" at this point says [paraphrased], "So, I looked at the boy and asked him, 'so, does your mom mouth off to your dad a lot?'" Cue laughter. And there was laughter.

There was no laughter from, though. I just sat there stunned. Do people actually find this funny? Yes, I know there are misogynists who like to "joke" about abuse in the Father's Rights Movement. I just never thought I'd see this sort of thing held up as "great comedy" on network television. I guess I'm just naive.

But I'm also appalled and disgusted. And not only at the misogynist comedian, but also at the audience who laughed, and at the producers (or whoever) who chose this clip as the "best" part of the routine. (I suppose it's possible that this was the least offensive part of his routine -- all the more reason to be appalled that this guy could become a finalist.)

Monday, October 04, 2004

Legalization/Decriminalization of Prostitution

In a recent post, Amp wrote a side note about prostitution:

In particular, I like this new law, because it focuses on punishing johns (in my opinion, prostitution should be decriminalized, but being a john should be a frequently-enforced felony).

In the comments to that thread, a few people have objected to his statement. Amp, himself, has not [yet] responded to these comments, but I thought I would. It should be noted that I am not, in any way, speaking for Amp, but rather, for myself.

In the past, I have been torn on the subject of legalizing prostitution. But the more I read on the subject and (more importantly) the more I work with women in the sex industry, the less torn I become. I definitely lean towards being opposed to legalization. I do, however, strongly agree with Amp about decriminalizing prostitution and prosecuting the johns. And so does the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women:

CATW favors decriminalization of the women in prostitution. No woman should be punished for her own exploitation. But States should never decriminalize pimps, buyers, procurers, brothels or other sex establishments.

There is an excellent article written for CATW by Janice Raymond which pretty much sums up my feelings on the subject. The following is simply a summary of the arguments. To read the reasoning of the arguments, you'll have to read the whole article.

The following arguments apply to all state-sponsored forms of prostitution, including but not limited to full-scale legalization of brothels and pimping, decriminalization of the sex industry, regulating prostitution by laws such as registering or mandating health checks for women in prostitution, or any system in which prostitution is recognized as "sex work" or advocated as an employment choice.

As countries are considering legalizing and decriminalizing the sex industry, we urge you to consider the ways in which legitimating prostitution as "work" does not empower the women in prostitution but does everything to strengthen the sex industry.

  • Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution is a gift to pimps, traffickers and the sex industry.

  • Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution and the sex industry promotes sex trafficking.

  • Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution does not control the sex industry.It expands it.

  • Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution increases clandestine, hidden, illegal and street prostitution.

  • Legalization of prostitution and decriminalization of the sex Industry increases child prostitution.

  • Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution does not protect the women in prostitution.

  • Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution increases the demand for prostitution. It boosts the motivation of men to buy women for sex in a much wider and more permissible range of socially acceptable settings.

  • Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution does not promote women's health.

  • Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution does not enhance women's choice.

  • Women in systems of Prostitution do not want the sex industry legalized or decriminalized.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

A different type of marriage problem

While we here in the US struggle for the right of all people to marry, thousands of South African women (and a few men) are fighting for their right not to be married. At least, not without their knowledge.

Over the last 3 years, at least 3,387 women (and a few men) have discovered that they are married. Married without their knowledge or consent; married to men (or, in the case of the men, to women) they have never even met. In the last month alone, nearly 800 more cases have been discovered.

One woman discovered her "marriage" when she applied for a passport to go visit her sister in New Zealand. Her passport was refused, on the grounds that she had not used her "proper" name (i.e. her married name). Another woman found out when she went to apply for a marriage license to marry a different man (this one was her choice). More recently, South Africa's Department of Home Affairs has started a public campaign to bring about awareness of this issue and has been putting this information on-line so people can check on their marital status that way.

Of course, the Department of Home Affairs is under investigation itself for it's involvment in this scam.
The department itself is also under review. As investigators have discovered, marrying a South African woman without her knowledge has been as simple as paying a bribe, averaging about $750, to one of many willing home affairs officials.

The certificates are valuable because a foreigner who weds a South African is automatically entitled to permanent residence and a work permit, without which the foreigner could be deported. As the most advanced and prosperous nation in the region, South Africa is a magnet for immigrants seeking a new life - and criminals seeking new identities.

That will not be so easy from now on. A law Parliament adopted on Aug. 19 requires foreigners who marry South Africans to wait five years before applying for anything but temporary residence and work permits.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

The End of the World [As We Know It]

Damn, now I have that song in my head.

Oh, well -- this is just too funny!!!

The End of the World

Friday, July 23, 2004

Freedom of Choice -- But Only On Certain Terms

Abortion seems to be the topic of the month at The New York Times. There was the June 20th article about aborting fetuses with disabilities, the July 18th article about Amy Richard's selective abortion, the article about the "abortion taboo" on television (also from July 18), and then there was the most recent one (July 22), by Barbara Ehrenreich.

Ehrenreich's article is, IMO, a good follow up to the (now infamous) Amy Richards article (although, interestingly, that is the one article Ehrenreich does not make mention of). In the aftermath of the Richards article, we've seen both anti-choicers and pro-choicers alike condemning her choice. The anti-choicers' condemnations come as no surprise -- but the pro-choicers' condemnation stings. Many seem to approve of "choice" -- but only on their terms.

As Ehrenreich says:
You can blame a lot of folks, from media bigwigs to bishops, if we lose our reproductive rights, but it's the women who shrink from acknowledging their own abortions who really irk me. Increasingly, for example, the possibility of abortion is built right into the process of prenatal care. Testing for fetal defects can now detect over 450 conditions, many potentially fatal or debilitating. Doctors may advise the screening tests, insurance companies often pay for them, and many couples (no hard numbers exist) are deciding to abort their imperfect fetuses.

The trouble is, not all of the women who are exercising their right to choose in these cases are willing to admit that that's what they are doing. Kate Hoffman, for example, who aborted a fetus with Down syndrome, was quoted in The Times on June 20 as saying: "I don't look at it as though I had an abortion, even though that is technically what it is. There's a difference. I wanted this baby."

Or go to the Web site for A Heartbreaking Choice, a group that provides support for women whose fetuses are deemed defective, and you find "Mom" complaining of having to have her abortion in an ordinary abortion clinic: "I resented the fact that I had to be there with all these girls that did not want their babies."

Kate and Mom: You've been through a hellish experience, but unless I'm missing something, you didn't want your babies either. A baby, yes, but not the particular baby you happened to be carrying.

The prejudice is widespread that a termination for medical reasons is somehow on a higher moral plane than a run-of-the-mill abortion. In a 1999 survey of Floridians, for example, 82 percent supported legal abortion in the case of birth defects, compared with about 40 percent in situations where the woman simply could not afford to raise another child.

But what makes it morally more congenial to kill a particular "defective" fetus than to kill whatever fetus happens to come along, on an equal opportunity basis? Medically informed "terminations" are already catching heat from disability rights groups, and, indeed, some of the conditions for which people are currently choosing abortion, like deafness or dwarfism, seem a little sketchy to me. I'll still defend the right to choose abortion in these cases, even if it isn't the choice I'd make for myself.

It would be unfair, though, to pick on the women who are in denial about aborting "defective" fetuses. At least 30 million American women have had abortions since the procedure was legalized, mostly for the kind of reasons that anti-abortion people dismiss as "convenience" - a number that amounts to about 40 percent of American women. Yet in a 2003 survey conducted by a pro-choice group, only 30 percent of women were unambivalently pro-choice, suggesting that there may be an appalling number of women who are willing to deny others the right that they once freely exercised themselves.
Personally, I'm exactly the opposite of those that Ehrenreich describes. I have far more problems, morally and ethically, with someone who aborts a previously wanted fetus simply because it is "defective" then with someone who aborts because they do not want a baby period (regardless of the reasons for not wanting said child).

But regardless of my moral and ethical views, I still value choice far too much to even attempt to regulate or legislate who can have an abortion and why.
Choice can be easy, as it was in my case, or truly agonizing. But assuming the fetal position is not an appropriate response. Sartre called this "bad faith," meaning something worse than duplicity: a fundamental denial of freedom and the responsibility that it entails. Time to take your thumbs out of your mouths, ladies, and speak up for your rights. The freedoms that we exercise but do not acknowledge are easily taken away.

Friday, July 16, 2004

What was that about feminists having no sense of humor?

I'm not a reader of The Funny Times, but ran across this and decided I just had to share it. Apparently, every month (or however frequent their issues are), some staff writer writes a letter to some company or organization with an absurdly stupid suggestion or question, and the magazine prints both the letter and the response. This was from the latest issue (I believe):

The letter (all emphasis in original):

February 20, 2004

Ms. Eileen Bresnahan
Chair, Women's Studies Department
Interdisciplinary House
Colorado College
14 East Cache La Poudre Street
Colorado Springs, CO 80903

Dear Ms. Bresnahan:

Time and again, I've heard the following complain: Men are not supportive of "women's issues." Not going to debate the validity of the charge, but merely offer a solution.

Years after realizing our liberal arts degrees were as potent as library cards, my friends and I came up with a new drinking game. We regularly attend feminist events (Take Back the Night, pro-choice fundraiser, Jewel concerts, etc...) and upon hearing the word patriarchy we chug beer. Ditto that for oppression. Any variation on "empowered" demands a double chug (that's two beers). And finally, when a sentence begins with: "as a woman, I feel that..." we pound the hard stuff.

Before the event lets out, we stumble home and play a similar game with reality TV programs and variations of the word "classy."

Now this might smack of paternalism, but just think about it: Promoting this game will mean more men attending your events where you can overcharge them for liquor and send them on their way before the evening's end. You could make a killing, even from -- or especially from -- conservatives.

Whadya say?

Kenneth H. Cleaver

The response (emphasis in original):

Kenneth H. Cleaver

PO Box 1034

Colorado Springs, CO 80901

Dear Brother in the Struggle Against Patriarchal Oppression:

Thank you for your provocative fundraising suggestion: consideration of this suggestion has been for us, as women, an empowering experience. The task of fighting patriarchal oppression and empowering the young women in our charge is daunting, and we are gratified to know that you and your friends do support us with your attendance and are willing to make such substantial financial contributions to our efforts. The Women's Studies faculty has alloted considerable time from our anti-patriarchy, anti-oppression, pro-women's-empowerment discussion to ponder your suggestion. As women we believe we should nurture any anti-patriarchy/pro-empowerment allies that come our way.

Unfortunately, Colorado College has strict rules about the availability of alcohol at school-sponsored events, so we are unable to serve or promote alcohol at our events. We realize that your motives are pure and that you undoubtedly have no interest in getting drunk yourself or in getting female students drunk; thus we are confident that you and your friends will be willing to pay for the words themselves without the alcohol. Beer costs about $3.50/glass in most of our local pubs. Since, however, this fundraiser is not about beer as much as it is about the good fight against patriarchal oppression, we, as women, are confident that you and your non-patriarchal buddies will be willing to pay $5/word. We encourage you to. Pay triple for phrase "as women, we feel" rather than engaging in more patriarchal violence. Further, from our experience, as women, we feel the hard stuff you're pounding is not as hard as you think.

We have responded as a collective and signed all our liberation names because, as we're sure you know, designating a spokesperson is the epitome of hierarchy and patriarchal oppression. As women, we feel we must resist such oppression and strive for empowerment in even the small things.

We imagine when you refer to "my friends and I" in your letter that the group you refer to is rather small. Surely, you have no more than two or three friends who can afford such an anti-patriarchal game. Being generous, let's say there are five of you committed to fighting oppression and helping us empower current and future generations of women. By our count of the words that inspire your game (see count below), we expect that each of you will forthwith send us a check for $280. You can check our events on the college web site. As women we look forward to your participation. Yes, indeed, let the killing begin.

In sisterhood,

Margaret Dykewomyn
Gay Gaywomyn
TomiAnn Freepersyn
Eileen Gertisdaughter
Gail Freewomyn
Tricia Patsdaughter

Eight "as women, we feel" = $120 * Seven "empower" = $70 * Ten "patriarchy" = $50 * Eight "oppression" = $40

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Hierarchy of Needs

During a recent conversation about political opinions, the topic of "mixed" political opinions came up -- meaning, those people who are socially liberal and fiscally conservative or vice versa. Now, I'm sure most of you here will already know that I believe being liberal both socially and fiscally is the best way to change the world for the better; however, if given the limited choice, is it better to be socially liberal or fiscally liberal? I have experience with both types of people, and I've given the subject a bit of thought over the years, and I've come to the conclusion that, on the whole and all else being equal (and assuming this will still only apply to a some people, not all people), I think it's better to be socially conservative and fiscally liberal.

Perhaps this will come as a surprise to a great many people (or, perhaps not). Certainly, a lot of the issues that are most near and dear to my heart would fall under the "social" label (liberal views, of course). It's not that I think these issues are "less" important (most of the time) -- and taken on an individual basis, there might be a lot of times I'd think the opposite was true. There are always exceptions.

OK, well, maybe for me there are a few issues that I feel are, while extremely important, simply not as important. The environment, animal rights, and gay marriage are three such issues that come to mind. Yes, yes, extremely important, I know. I really do. But I don't think they are as important as certain fiscal issues such as fair welfare benefits, affordable healthcare, affordable childcare, a living wage, to name a few. Given the choice between supporting a candidate who was pushing for more restrictions on corporate pollution (and/or for legalizing gay marriage) but in favor of the welfare "deform" of the type that Clinton & Gore enacted (or worse, stronger "reform") and the candidate who was pushing for a living wage, affordable healthcare, and affordable (quality) childcare but in favor of lessening restrictions on corporate pollution (or against gay marriage), I'd vote for the latter in a minute. (Given a 3rd choice -- one who was both pro-environment and/or in favor of gay marriage AND in favor of the financial issues I mentioned ... yeah, that'd be ideal, but I'm not talking about "ideal" here.) Again, it's not that I think the environment, animal rights, or gay marriage are unimportant. Nothing could be further from the truth. OK, truth be told, the environment and animal rights are not "my" issues -- I'm strongly in favor these issues, and strongly support those who work on these issues, but they're not issues that are of utmost importance to me, personally. As for gay marriage -- well, yes, that's a big issue for me -- I find it to be among one of the most important issues of the time. But, it's just something that, to me, I find to be something that isn't as basic and necessary as other issues. Which brings me to the Hierarchy of Needs.

A lot of my reasoning for this belief comes from Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs theory. Being a Sociology major, it's one of those things that comes up a lot, although I also had to study it in business school. (Ironically, one of the women in the discussion said her own father is a strong believer in Maslow's theory, and uses that to justify his own beliefs, which happen to be socially liberal and fiscally conservative. Frankly, that doesn't make a lot of sense to me -- I'm not saying it's wrong, per se, but it just doesn't mesh with my interpretation of the theory.)

For those who are not familiar with the Hierarchy of Needs theory -- or for those who haven't thought about it since that Soc 101 (or Psych 101) class way back when -- Maslow essentially believed that, as human beings, we have certain needs which must be met. There are various levels of needs, and until the needs at one level are met, we cannot even try to meet the higher needs. A quick look at what the various needs are:

  • Physiological Needs

    These are biological needs. They consist of needs for oxygen, food, water, and a relatively constant body temperature. They are the strongest needs because if a person were deprived of all needs, the physiological ones would come first in the person's search for satisfaction.

  • Safety Needs

    When all physiological needs are satisfied and are no longer controlling thoughts and behaviors, the needs for security can become active. Adults have little awareness of their security needs except in times of emergency or periods of disorganization in the social structure (such as widespread rioting). Children often display the signs of insecurity and the need to be safe.

  • Needs of Love, Affection and Belongingness

    When the needs for safety and for physiological well-being are satisfied, the next class of needs for love, affection and belongingness can emerge. Maslow states that people seek to overcome feelings of loneliness and alienation. This involves both giving and receiving love, affection and the sense of belonging.

  • Needs for Esteem

    When the first three classes of needs are satisfied, the needs for esteem can become dominant. These involve needs for both self-esteem and for the esteem a person gets from others. Humans have a need for a stable, firmly based, high level of self-respect, and respect from others. When these needs are satisfied, the person feels self-confident and valuable as a person in the world. When these needs are frustrated, the person feels inferior, weak, helpless and worthless.

  • Needs for Self-Actualization

    When all of the foregoing needs are satisfied, then and only then are the needs for self-actualization activated. Maslow describes self-actualization as a person's need to be and do that which the person was "born to do." "A musician must make music, an artist must paint, and a poet must write." These needs make themselves felt in signs of restlessness. The person feels on edge, tense, lacking something, in short, restless. If a person is hungry, unsafe, not loved or accepted, or lacking self-esteem, it is very easy to know what the person is restless about. It is not always clear what a person wants when there is a need for self-actualization.

Like the Hierarchy of Needs, I feel that there are certain issues which must be addressed and rectified before we can seriously work (to the full benefit of everyone) on other issues. Fighting for most social causes is incredibly important -- indeed, necessary. But when our most basic needs, both as individuals and as a society are not being met first, we can't really accomplish those other important issues.

There's another reason for my opinion -- also based on the Hierarchy of Needs. The fact is, if we want to enact social change in our society, we can't do it alone. We need others to be fighting that fight with us.

In the website I linked to above, the author included this statement in the "self-actualization" need:
It is usually middle-class to upper-class students who take up environmental causes, join the Peace Corps, go off to a monastery, etc.
For the most part, I believe this to be true. Now, we all know there are exceptions, some very great exceptions, as a matter of fact. But, for the most part, I find this to be true. The person who is sleeping on the street is going to be, first and foremost, concerned about finding shelter and food -- they're not going to be fighting for animal rights. My housemates have a great postcard hanging around the house which is a pretty good example. It shows a young woman, about "college" aged, holding a sign saying, "Thank you for not wearing fur." Next to her is a homeless man sitting on the street, obviously shivering, saying, "You're welcome." The single mother working 14 hours a day to feed herself and her kids is, in most cases, not going to be attending the March for Women's Lives -- she's going to be working (not to mention, unless she happens to live in D.C., she probably couldn't afford to go, anyway). Boycotting Walmart is certainly a worthy cause (for a number of reasons: sweatshops, labor abuses, it's refusal to carry the morning after pill, etc.), but let's face it, Walmart is cheap and it takes a certain amount of privilege to buy the same product in another store for a bit (or a lot) more money -- or even to find the time to search through thrift stores to find that necessary item.

Before we, as a society, can fulfill our needs for love and belonging, for esteem, for self-actualization, we must first fulfill our societal needs for the most basic needs.

Monday, April 12, 2004

New Study Shows College Textbook Prices Are Too High

Yeah, I know, anyone who has been in college already knows the scam the college textbook publishing industry has been pulling on students over the years. But, the studies have to be done anyway, because there are always those who won't believe a thing until there's been a study done on it. So, fine, study away, confirm what we already know. What amazes me is that there are still people out there who will try and defend their actions.

The results of the study conducted by the California Student Public Interest Research Group, Oregon Student Public Interest Research Group and the OSPIRG Foundation show that students will spend an average of $898 per year on textbooks in 2003-04, approximately 20 percent of the average tuition and fees for in-state students at public four-year colleges nationwide and over 33% more than the average amount spent on textbooks in 1997.

This drastic increase is mostly attributed to the new "bonus features" that publishers include with the textbooks -- like CD ROMS. Problem is, there is rarely an option to buy the textbook without the "bonus features," and, as the study shows, most professors never even use these "bonus features" (Sixty-five percent of faculty "rarely" or "never" use the bundled materials in their courses. "In the one instance that a textbook was available both bundled and unbundled (only the textbook), the bundled version was more than twice as expensive as the unbundled version of the same textbook." So, most students are paying about twice as much for things they will never use.

The other problem the study found was the publishing companies constantly putting out new editions (on average, every 3 years) making older, cheaper, used textbooks obsolete and unavailable. Now, certainly, there are certain topics that require constant updates and revisions. No one wants to use a genetics textbook or a computer programming textbook published 10 years ago. But when you're talking about Calculus, English Lit, 18th Century British History, etc., the new editions are rarely justified -- certainly not every 3 years. In fact, the study found that 76 percent of faculty report that the new editions they use are justified "never" to "half the time" and 40 percent of faculty report that the new editions are "rarely" to "never" justified.
"Calculus hasn't changed much since Isaac Newton. The question needs to be asked -- do we really need a new edition every few years?" said U.S. Rep. David Wu, an Oregon Democrat who was the first lawmaker to ask for the investigation last fall.
Of course, those in the publishing industry have a different opinion.
Pat Schroeder, president of the Association of American Publishers and a former congresswoman, said the report was one-sided and flawed.

Textbook publishers say the students' recommendations, which include a five-year minimum before the release of a new edition, fail to take the need for updates into account.

"Imagine a government textbook that had Bill Clinton as president. Or an accounting textbook that didn't include Enron. Or a biology textbook that didn't have cloning or stem cell research. The world changes so fast," said Jessica Dee Rohm, spokeswoman for Thomson Learning, the Stamford, Conn.-based textbook giant.

Publishers say that even if the subject is calculus or art history, and by nature doesn't change as radically as genetics, the revised editions are always different.

"We have a revision diary that's hundreds of pages long for that book -- we invested $300,000 of research to change it," said Rohm, referring to the Calculus 101 book that Connolly held up at a news conference in Portland on Wednesday.
Now, as I said, I do think there are some subject areas where new editions of textbooks are far more justified. Hell, if there's been some new research in Calculus, fine, put out a new edition. But, really, that's going to happen how often? Certainly not every 3 years, and certainly not so much that other solutions can't be used -- like including new information in a supplement instead of producing a new textbook edition (a solution 87% of faculty members surveyed supported).

Anyone who has been a student knows that most times the new editions are simply old books with chapters rearranged, or questions at the end of chapters changed. No new information. And sure, there are ways to get around the buying of a new edition -- like buying a used older edition and getting the problems assigned for homework from someone who has the new edition. But is this something we should be expecting students to have to do? I think not.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Gay Marriage in Portland

Multnomah County will begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses, starting at 10 am tomorrow morning (Wednesday, March 3).

Have fun, Amy! :p

Friday, February 27, 2004

Green Party Mayor of New York Town Follows Newsome's Lead

Mayor of N.Y. Town Marries Gay Couples
By MICHAEL HILL, Associated Press Writer

NEW PALTZ, N.Y. - Twenty-one gay couples exchanged wedding vows on the steps of village hall Friday in a spirited ceremony that opened another front on the growing national debate over gay marriage.

As the ceremonies by 26-year-old Mayor Jason West were ending, the state Health Department asked the attorney general to seek an injunction "to prevent further illegal conduct by the mayor," a department spokesman said.

A call to Attorney General Eliot Spitzer's office was not immediately returned.

West, elected on the Green Party ticket last year in this village 75 miles north of New York City, joined Gavin Newsom of San Francisco as the country's only mayors to marry same-sex couples.

"What we're witnessing in America today is the flowering of the largest civil rights movement the country's had in a generation," West said.
Protestors were, of course, there -- but sheesh, do they have some uncreative and downright boring protestors there:
One protester stood outside the hall with a sign that read, in part, "It's Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve."

"It's against nature," Angelo Da'Quaro said. "It's against religion, it's against all of that."

And, of course they have to ask NY's only openly gay mayor what he thinks (sigh. yawn.):
Plattsburgh Mayor Daniel Stewart _ New York state's first and only openly gay mayor _ said he will not perform same-sex marriages.

"I believe in changing the law, but I don't believe in breaking the law in order to change it," said Stewart, a Republican.
Dan Stewart's a great guy in person, and he's fun to hang out at the gay bar with, but politically, he's just boring. Oh, and unless he's changed his opinions since I lived there, he's not even for changing the law really (only in favor of Civil Unions, not gay marriage)

Friday, February 20, 2004

Chicago to follow San Francisco's lead?

Daley on gay marriage: 'no problem'

February 19, 2004

BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter

Mayor Daley said Wednesday he would have "no problem" with County Clerk David Orr issuing marriage licenses to gay couples -- and Orr said he's open to a San Francisco-style protest if a consensus can be built.

"They're your doctors, your lawyers, your journalists, your politicians," the mayor said. "They're someone's son or daughter. They're someone's mother or father. . . . I've seen people of the same sex adopt children, have families. [They're] great parents.

"Some people have a difference of opinion -- that only a man and a woman can get married. But in the long run, we have to understand what they're saying. They love each other just as much as anyone else.''

A devout Catholic, Daley scoffed at the suggestion that gay marriage would somehow undermine the institution of marriage between a man and a woman.

"Marriage has been undermined by divorce, so don't tell me about marriage. You're not going to lecture me about marriage. People should look at their own life and look in their own mirror. Marriage has been undermined for a number of years if you look at the facts and figures on it. Don't blame the gay and lesbian, transgender and transsexual community. Please don't blame them for it," he said.

Daley said he has no control over marriage licenses in Cook County. But if Orr wants to take that bold step, the mayor has no problem with it.

Orr said he was "game to looking at options" provided a consensus could be built.

"I'm fed up with people being discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. We can't even pass a law that eliminates discrimination against gay couples. [But] whatever you do when it comes to challenging laws, you want it to be effective and not knee-jerk," Orr said.

The clerk noted the protest that has gay couples from around the nation lining up for hours outside San Francisco's City Hall was meticulously planned.